Chicago v. Sturges,
222 U.S. 313 (1911)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Chicago v. Sturges, 222 U.S. 313 (1911)

Chicago v. Sturges

No. 39

Argued November 6, 1911

Decided December 18, 1911

222 U.S. 313


The question of validity of a state statute under the state constitution is foreclosed in this Court by the decision of the highest court of the state.

The general principles of law that there is no individual liability for an act which ordinary human care and foresight could not guard against and that loss for causes purely accidental must rest where it falls, are subject to the legislative power, which, in the absence of organic restraint, may, for the general welfare, impose obligations and responsibilities otherwise nonexistent.

Primarily government exists for the maintenance of social order, and is under the obligation to protect life, liberty, and property against the careless and evil-minded.

Legislation reasonably adapted to the maintenance of social order, affording hearing before judgment, and not affirmatively forbidden by any constitutional provision does not deny due process of law.

It is a familiar rule of the common law that the state which creates subordinate municipal governments and vests in them police powers essential to preservation of law and order may impose upon them the duty of protecting property from mob violence and hold them liable for loss caused by such violence.

Liability of the municipality for property destroyed by mob violence rests upon reasonable grounds of public policy and operates to deter the lawless destruction of property.

It is not unreasonable for a state to make a county liable for damages sustained by sufferers whose property is not within any incorporated city.

Equal protection of the law is not denied where the classification is not so unreasonable and extravagant as to be merely an arbitrary mandate. A classification between cities and unincorporated subdivisions of a county is a reasonable one within the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The act of Illinois of 1887 indemnifying owners of property for damages by mobs and riots is not unconstitutional as depriving cities of

Page 222 U. S. 314

their property without due process of law because liability imposed irrespective of the power of the city to have prevented the violence, nor is it unconstitutional as denying equal protection of the law because it discriminates between cities and unincorporated subdivisions of a county.

237 Ill. 46 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality under the Fourteenth Amendment of the mob and riot indemnity law of Illinois, are stated in the opinion.

Page 222 U. S. 321

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